View Full Version : [World] Any tips for a new DM

2006-08-23, 08:20 PM
I'm DMing the first session of my first D&D campaign this saturday and was hoping htere was someone who could help me with a few general tips. My world is basically a combination between Rich's articles in the Gaming section and a combination of Dragon issue#340.

So yeah, lots of emphasis on the Sun and Moon. It's an eight player campaign and I've personally made up all the character's basic outlines (class, race, basic equipment) and have given the character sheets back to the players for finishing. It's called Pseudelity.

The basic story is this: The Sun and Moon made the world (which was originally greatly similar to orthodox 3.5 D&D). The Sun was a being of strength, law, discipline and hope (physical description ripped off Rich's work.) The Moon was a being of subtlety, freedom, learning and enjoyment. The sun made humans in her image and the moon made gnomes in his. This eventually led to a great and bloody war between the two, in which most of both populations was destroyed. The sun and moon saw this, and upon seeing their intededly peaceful creation torn by this barrier, sought of a way to end it. The moon finally suggested that they tear their connections to their creations, so that any of either race that was born during the day would be under the sun's guidance and protection and any born at night would be under the moon's. The sun agreed for peace's sake, but begrudged the loss of an instrument of law. So eventually peace reigned between the two races.

Generations later, however, a group of gnomes who called themselves the 'Night-touched' and considered themselves superior by virtue of their race and being born under a night with a new moon, sailed away towards the west, never to be seen again by mortal eyes. They began to draw from the divine energies of the sun and moon, owing no allegience to either, and became the discoverers of arcane magic, a great force that though derived from the sources of light; was not of light and psionics, a power drawn from the Nighttouched themseleves. Their power grew, and it became manifest as a sentient being: the embodiment of shadow, for so he was: an absence from the sun and moon's power. This shadow consumed the Nighttouched's descendants, turning them into slaves and engines of destruction against each other, until out of the very magic that spawned the shadow, a seal was forged. The seal required a living being of great power to serve as the seal, as well as twelve artifacts made by the Nighttouched as sources of power; and the gnomes' greatest wizard was used as the focus for the seal. He sealed the shadow with the help of seven powerful psions, but in the process the new land of the nighttouched was laid waste and barren, so in great ships the survivors returned to the eastern land of their fore fathers, to try and continue their existence.

That's basically origins, and the beginning of the campaign takes place about 800 years later, three generations by gnome standings. The seal is weakening because the wizard who serves as the focus is dying of old age, despite his magically enhanced lifetime. Four of the characters are suntouched, born during a lunar eclipse, and the others are moontouched, born during a solar eclipse. Each is given a minor spell-like ability afiliated with his or her heavenly body. I plan to have them all be subconsciuosly led to travel abroad and end up in the same small village, where the eveidence of evil is first showing up.

I've made it so that the seven artifacts serve as keys for the seal, which were hidden when the high gnomes (as they are now known for their inherent magical abilities) returned so that the seal won't be opened. I've also made it so that the wizard of the party is really trying to release the shadow, and is secretely using the party to further his cause by finding the keys and defeating the guardians by convincing them is the only way to re-seal the shadow.

I've also made it so that the sorcerers get their powers directly from the sun or moon for the purposes of some great destiny; in this case; stopping the shadow. He has been given an embodiment of the sun's power to aid him (fire elemental familiar). There are up to three sorcerers alive at any given point, with the average being one. Wizardry is unknow to all but the nighttouched's descendants. This sorcerer does not know his destiny, only that it's an important one, and the wizard's words should convince him that this is it.

Now the artifacts really are the keys to the seal, only that they are not used to close it, but to open it. The only way to close the seal is to find a new focus, which the sorcerer is destined to be. Once all the artifacts are collected and they make the trek to the western shores, the shadow is released fully and all hell breaks loose until they manage to go into his domain and confront him directly (Epic level challenge).

That's the basic story, though the characters obviously don't know it yet. It's sloppy and not as specific as my official version, but it's a good summary. Any ideas, pointers? I had real problems getting through lower levels, because I can't fiind a decent challenge low enough for them. I want to make the other characters more important, because they're really just serving as guardians at this point. Can anyone help?


I'm limiting sentient races to humans and gnomes until later in the game when the shadow is released with his armies of hellspawn. I know that the wizard and the sorcerer are definitely getting the major brunt of the storyline, but I can't find anything else to make the other characters except the destined sealers of the shadow, with the sorcerer being the seal. Anyone have something else I can do?

Before anyone makes mention (flames) of the race restrictions, I made subraces for each, as follows:

--Humans (as PHB) Played by Sorcerer and Cleric
--Northmen (viking-ish; basically blond half-orcs minus darkvision) Played by Barbarian
--Icemen (Inuit; flabby dwarves minus stonecunning and appraise bonus) Played by Fighter

--High Gnomes (as PHB, except +2Int instead of Con) Played by Wizard
--Mountain Gnomes (-2Str, +2Con; they basically have the dwarf thing going on, including stonecunning and appraise, but to gems, not metalwork) Played by Bard
--Forest Gnomes; (Halfling replacement; -2Str, +2Dex; bonuses to climb, jump, etc.) Played by Ranger and Rogue

I tweaked the bard. Well, I took the bard and bent it in a pretzel. Basically, I gave bards born under the moon the Cleric spell list with less spells per day and took away the bardic knowledge ability, as well as allowing their music to affect undead. I kept in mind that the player was known for a certain amount of incompetence, so I don't think any nerfing should be required, what do you think?

Yeah, it's an eight-person party. Yeah, it's gonna be annoying getting shecules to coincide. Other than that, what would the CR change be? I'm going for +3, because, quite frankly, I've seen these people play before, and most are going to be dragged kicking and screaming into a world where they can't drop a flask of alchemist fire while flying with wings they got from being a half-dragon into a mine field to instantly destroy the three skeletons conveniently standing on a lethal fire trap.

P.S. I'm working with a PHB, MM, and DMG; all 3rd. I also am currently borrowing Dragon MAgazine #340.

2006-08-23, 09:18 PM
Here's my advice:

-Make an NPC "ally", not the PC, the Traitor. Traitorous PCs should always be avoided, since the PC can't be played after his treason's revealed.

-Remove the Chosen status from the sorcerer PC. Key PCs are almost as dangerous as traitorous PCs (what happens if he permanently dies, for instance?). Instead of the seal requiring a sorcerer, make it so the seal requires a PC, period. You'll get more drama if one of the PCs has to volunteer to sacrifice his life to reseal the gate. (Normally I don't condone inevitable sacrifices, but in this case it should work.)

-Give the PCs downtime. Wizards need time to scribe spells, warriors need time to get weapons smithed, all of the PCs can establish ties and get involved with society, giving them more reason to stop the apocalypse.

2006-08-23, 09:39 PM
Add more than gnomes. You'll lose a lot of bigoted players who are otherwise fun people to RP with.

Fax Celestis
2006-08-24, 12:57 AM
You don't necessarily have to put in other races that are out of the core. Even looking in the first two or three pages of this single forum, there's probably six or seven playable races in there with an LA of +0 or +1. Some you may want to search for are the Kar, the Russiti, or the Psi-Fi thread (which has a bunch in it). Adding in races that aren't in core (or even in any book) is a great way to improve the flavor of any game, as long as you make sure that they aren't just humans in bug/wolf/cat/other form. Different races act differently, and should reflect that.

2006-08-24, 04:02 PM
I did the race thing for a reason. My current playing group is so hugely into stereotypes of races that it's dumbfounding how bland they can make otherwise great races and classes. What I want to do is get them out of that: Gnomes are not measured in half to three-fourths to fully insane. Magic is not fully available to everyone. All members of the same species are not exactly the same. It sounds like I'm quoting the giant.

Anyway, I like the idea of making any one of the PC's usable for the seal; I've been fretting because I've set up for some big damage/low HP monsters in levels 5-7 that could probably kill the sorcerer outright. That'll help to see who's really of pure heart later in the game.

In respects to the traitorous wizard being a PC, it's pretty much too late to change it. He's been assigned a character sheet, rolled it up, and has been informed that he'll be using the party for his own ends, but he doesn't know the details yet. What I want to do is that when he unleashes the shadow, it'll immediately try to kill him. The shadow is obviously too powerful for the seven of them combined (yeah, I recruited a rogue Forest Gnome first period today) so the sun and moon will save their chosen from the brink of death and set them upon the true course with which to seal him, which will include going through a less red-themed version of the Abyss to fight through a few hordes of slightly modified devils. And besides, adding a long-term arcane caster NPC to seven person party that already has one? they're going to hold him at arm's distance. Or spear's distance, it's just to obvious.

And also, I'm wondering whether to make the rogue suntouched or moontouched; I like contrast, and the ranger is also from the same forest as him---but a rogue. I mean come on. Dragon issue 340 even gives substitute levels for lunar rogues.

Would that do you think?

2006-08-24, 04:14 PM
You could make it so that a certain portion of his personality was evil (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/psionic/monsters/phthisic.htm) and ripped itself out of his body, and is now going to attempt to take over the world. Or, better yet, have his phthisic pull the rest of the party's phthisic's out. Evil doppelgangers are always fun. ;D

Fax Celestis
2006-08-24, 04:15 PM
Make a third: Eclipse.

Fax Celestis
2006-08-24, 04:16 PM
You could make it so that a certain portion of his personality was evil (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/psionic/monsters/phthisic.htm) and ripped itself out of his body, and is now going to attempt to take over the world.
Er, which part in particular?

2006-08-24, 04:19 PM
Er, which part in particular?
An evil part? I dunno. He knows these people better than I do.

2006-08-24, 04:26 PM
That's....brilliant! So the shadow liked the wizard's ingenuity to use the heroes to complete exactly what they were trying to stop, he takes the essence of that and rips it from his soul, making his second in command, which the party will have to fight prior to taking on the shadow himself!!! It'll make a great scene for the whole 'self-exorcism' aspect of it.
I could do it for the rest of the party, too, so that what's left of them is essentially pure enough to enter the abyss and not be overwhelmed by the sheer evil within the place.

2006-08-24, 05:07 PM
Oh, and where can I find rules for psionics? One of my players has an expanded psionics handbook, but if I can find the rules for the pthisic without tipping my hand, I would be most appreciative.

2006-08-24, 05:13 PM
Oh, and where can I find rules for psionics? One of my players has an expanded psionics handbook, but if I can find the rules for the pthisic without tipping my hand, I would be most appreciative.
The SRD (http://www.d20srd.org/index.htm) is the best place on the web. Getting the book would probably be the best thing to do, just because it's easier to read a book through than a web site. However, the phthisic doesn't require complete understanding of the system, so if you looked up all the things about it on the SRD, you should be able to run it pretty well. Although, if you need to stick some class levels on it, find the psionic version of that class, learn how they're played, and up it's CR to their average party level, getting the book would definitely be best.

Edit: Here's a picture of a phthisic if you want it (http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/psi_gallery/Psi_40.jpg).

2006-08-24, 10:30 PM
Alright then, good. Now I'm just worried that one of my players will find this forum and read the storyline...

On a side note, who runs the SRD? It doesn't seem like something WotC would do, it's far too easy to not buy the books now.

Fax Celestis
2006-08-24, 10:51 PM
WotC publishes the SRD. Some people just put it up online.

2006-08-25, 04:01 PM
Alright I've got an idea. I'll make it so that each of the characters has to fight a psionic version of him or herself.
sorcerer vs. psion
fighter vs. psionic warrior
rogue vs. soulknife
barbarian vs. warmind
Ranger vs. slayer
Bard vs. wilder
Wizard vs. psion

...and then they all fight the shadow backed up by the wizard's pthisic. Any better ideas for the almost-ending of the campaign?

EDIT: Maybe wilder would be a better match against a sorcerer, but then what would be a fitting opponent for a barbarian?

EDIT: suggestions taken and incoporated.

2006-08-25, 06:38 PM
Because there's nothing that really fits the barbarian well, using a War Mind instead might be interesting. It's pretty close to the psionic oppostie of a barbarian.

Fax Celestis
2006-08-25, 06:52 PM
Yeah, Barbarian vs. War Mind, and Bard vs. Wilder

2006-08-26, 11:29 AM
Sweet, this is getting interesting. What I'm thinking of doing to them is making all their psionic counterparts look alot more like them than an average pthisic would: same basic build, but made completely of a dark purple reflective substance with glowing eyes; for those of you who've ever Mario Sunshine for the GCN, you know what I'm talking about.

Now the first session has been getting postponed due to the fact that I have great plans for levels 15+, but still can't think of anything to carry them through to there, as well as the fact that I'm still not sure how to make it truly official to the party that they need to embark on this quest for the artifacts. If they really decide to roleplay intensively for the first time, then they might doubt they would take the word of anyone who practices wizardy at first glance (remember that wizardry was completely unheard of until the nighttouched's descendants returned, and that most people regard it as stealing powers from the sun and moon). So maybe I have the dying sorcerer give them each a cryptic sending (I think that's the spell's name) about the shadow and that it needs to be sealed, but not saying anything about how.

2006-08-27, 06:38 PM
I...just got...the best idea...ever.

Let's get into some detail about how the seal was originally forged, shall we? First off, after the nighttouched discovered arcane magic, their next discovery overshadowed even that: psionics. The reason the shadow was given such free reign is because that it was a creature made of magic and embodied magic, so that it could not be sealed by it. Later, when psionics became more refined--and as the shadow was as yet unfamiliar with it--a seal was forged from the minds of the seven most powerful wizards and psions of the age, with the most powerful being used as the focus for the spell, and each of their psicrystals being placed in a hexagon around the wizard, with the six psions in a larger hexagon around them.

Once the spell was completed, the psions built a great, but hastily built, fortress with the aid of their powers to protect the seal. In case the seal were ever to weaken, they each placed a seperate room containing weapons, armor, equipment, and magic items necessary to play the role that he had played to re-forge the seal, as well as their psicrystals, as they were no longer needed now that the seal was complete; and they worked together to make a seventh one for a new focus.

Now, I'll make the characters come to this place in the mid-teen levels, where they'll each somehow be led into the room built by their psionic counter-part for the sealing of the shadow. The room will contain magic items, masterwork weapons, and an all-in-all armory for the specific character, magically augmented to be able to change from small to medium size as necessary for human characters.

That wan't the idea yet; this is the good part:

Each of the characters will come face-to-face with his or her counterpart, who will explain what needs to be done to re-seal the shadow, then the psicrystal of the ancient psion will merge with the character's sun/moonstone* and give a form of mindlink effect, the caracter sharing memories with the psion. Here's where my idea starts taking effect: from then on, whenever the party is approaching a critical point in the sealing of the shadow, there will be a sort of flashback, where each of the players breaks out a psion character sheet of appropriate level that I filled out beforehand, and live it as the psions did, though they have to roleplay each ofthe psions and will be in combat, social situations, etc. as appropriate.

That just seems so incredibly awesome that I have to curse The Demented One, Psionic Devotee, and Fax Celestis for getting me so much into psionics when I read your posts.

*I can't believe I didn't mention this in the initial post. A suntouched character is born with a glowing yellow stone in his or her left hand, and a moontouched with a glowing silver stone in his or her right hand. It's pretty centaral to the story line, so sorry I left it out.